Another Rich, Runny Cheese

November 22, 2010

We had written about Noble Springs Dairy’s “Harpeth Fleur,” and now we have found another ripe, runny cheese that is blog-worthy:  the “Green Hill” from Sweet Grass Dairy, from of Thomasville, Georgia (pictured below, right).  We purchased it at the Turnip Truck Urban Fare in the Gulch ($6.49 for half a wheel).  Made from “grass-based milk,” this cheese is, literally, oozing with goodness and taste.

According to pastoralartisan.com, where you can order “Green Hill” and other cheeses online:

Sweet Grass Dairy’s commitment to producing delicious and healthful milk from pasture-fed cows shines through in this small Camembert-style cheese. The unctuous paste is rich with sweet, buttery and grassy flavors. Though based on an old-world recipe, this cheese is a shining example of the finest in American artisan cheesemaking.

Bella Napoli

August 21, 2010

R and I decided to have lunch at Bella Napoli Pizzeria in  Edgehill village. The folks at Valentino’s on West End opened Bella Napoli this August, building on Nashville’s wave of Italian wood-fired pizza, following the likes of City House and Porta Via.  Bella Napoli is a great addition to the 12th south, Belmont, Vandy neighborhood, and to the Nashville pizza scene. The pizzeria has a large dining room and roomy outdoor seating area, with just-delivered patio furniture. I ordered the Margherita Pizza ($9). The crust was thin and crispy on the edges and the tomato sauce was tart and flavorful, not like the overly sweet sauce in American pizza. My only complaint was the sad piece of basil, wilted and brown on the corner of the pizza. I am looking forward to eating the left overs for breakfast. R had the San Gennaro panini with a healthy portion of prosciutto crudo, mozzarella, and marinated egg plant ($10). The flavors on the sandwich were great, and the eggplant was a real standout. R noted that bread was especially delicious. The side salad, mostly colorless pieces of lettuce, and the chips were a real miss. I think they should just serve the sandwich on its own. It is quite substantial.

While the place is great for lunch I think it needs to work on its atmosphere to attract dinner patrons. Also, while we were there “That’s Amore” was on repeat.

Bella Napoli on Urbanspoon

Rich, Runny Cheese

June 20, 2010

Our penchant for ripe, runny, pungent cheese was completely satiated by Noble Springs Dairy’s “Harpeth Fleur,” a goat cheese.  We purchased it at the original Provence on 21st, but the products from this Franklin, TN can be purchased at a number of places around town.  On their website, they’ve got a list of merchants who carry their products, as well as general information about their farm.

NYC Recommendation

February 4, 2010

A friend asked us for a restaurant recommendation for NYC, based on our recent stay there.  Robataya comes second, but hands down we vote for:

Aldea
31 W 17th St
NY, NY 10011
212.675.7223

A loving parent wanted to take us out for dinner, and that Saturday she got us a reservation for 8 pm at Aldea. The last-minute availability made us a bit skeptical, but while perusing TONY’s 2009 best dishes, we realized that there were two Aldea dishes in the article (Appetizer: sea urchin toast; Entree: arroz de pato). We perked up after learning about these dishes, but did not anticipate such a fine affair.

Aldea is a Portuguese restuarant, and its chef is George Mendes.  The restaurant is nestled in a long, narrow space with clean lines and minimally elegant decor–perhaps belying the complexity of food that Mendes serves up.  Our table started off with a pestico, appetizer, and charcuterie.  The sea urchin toast was better than promised:  the fragile balance of the sea urchin, cauliflower cream, and sea lettuce was unbelievable in its imagination and execution.  The caramelized lychee that accompanied the cuttlefish appetizer had the same imaginative flair, but 2/3 of the table weren’t completely seduced by the baby cuttlefish.  The foie gras terrine had the right infusion of sweetness and richness.  It was gout-inducing decadence, but with a moderation that made us want more.

As an entree that seems to be too many things duck (confited legs, poached breasts, and CRACKLINGS!), the arroz de pato brought out the best qualities of duck (savory, rich tenderness), set against saffron rice cooked just right and garnished with olives to give one last zing.  A had the lamb dish–loin and belly. We’d  never seen lamb belly on a menu before, but it was fabulous.  Not as fatty as pork belly, but with an earthy flavor.  L wanted her arctic char grilled with no salt, no nada, and the kitchen managed to turn those requests into a good dish, with everything on the side.

The service, from the front of the house to the runners, was attentive.  Our waiter was an abd, Berkeley grad student (is there a better way to get at our hearts?) who knew his wines well and suggested bottles and glasses that complimented each course.  So much so that I don’t seem to recall the finer details of our desserts.  We stayed and lingered much later than we normally would, to soak in and prolong the experience.

Speculating on the easily obtained reservation and not-so packed house (there weren’t that many turns the night we were there), the problem with Aldea is actually its under-priced menu (entrees:  $23-$28).  The undervalue here compliments too well the understated restaurant–thus it’s unable to create a constant buzz.  The opposite can be said of another memorable NY experience we had:   Scarpetta, which has the most amazing spaghetti (touche Bruni), but the din of the pretentious crowd and the obsequious service was a bit over the top.

Make that reservation at Aldea, T-Bone.

Aldea on Urbanspoon

The Smiling Elephant

2213 8th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37204
615.891.4488

I forgot to eat yesterday until late afternoon, when I decided to try out the Smiling Elephant at 2213 8th Ave. South, just north of Bradford.  The restaurant coexists with P&K Imports–as indicated by the dual signage.  [Hat tip to Marty.]  It’s a conscientious place: the uniform prices (all dishes are $8.95 at lunch and $10.95 at dinner), the menu, the healthy cooking (no MSG and the counterintuitive promise to wok with olive oil), the interior wood paneling, its internet presence, and the eager service.  It’s a family operation (background here).  The dining room is quaint–with ten or so tables.  The kitchen is open and exposed.

I ordered the Thai fried rice, with chicken, to go.  The rice was tastily fried and mixed with wedges of tomatoes, winter greens (unexpected), and cilantro.  The vegetables were al-dente, which I appreciated.  I added some Maggi and sriracha to suit my taste.  The heaping portions satiated my nauseating hunger.  I’ll be back to try more.

Another visit 1/23/10, we picked up a to-go order of the pad thai with chicken and the Khao Kai Ra-bert, which was recommended to us by the restaurant’s phone operator. The pad thai had the right combination of taste and texture that we have come to expect from the Elephant. But the Khao Kai Ra-bert was unexpectedly savory, despite sounding simple on the menu: “Mild stir fry with minced pork, garlic, and ground black pepper. Served with a fried egg and jasmine rice.” We asked for an extra serving of white rice to have enough grub for three people (and it was). The total: $26.

The Smiling Elephant on Urbanspoon

Thai Phooket
207 Woodland
Nashville, TN 37213
615.248.7933

The skinny on Thai Phooket:  Wide-ranging, ambitious menu, compared to Nashville’s other Thai restaurants.  But it can be inconsistent with food quality and prep.  Hit or miss on certain dishes, and uncomfortable in the winter.  Our second visit was quite inconsistent with our initial visit [see below for both reviews].

Architecturally, Thai Phooket is an American  roadhouse.  Not necessarily outside of the city, but in no man’s land across from LP Field.  Sitting inside, one looks out at the flood lights and desolate, vast parking lots.

There are some nice touches that make the interior more comfortable, like fresh flowers (hat tip to G) and the accommodating service.  (The soft-rock radio station is too kitschy.)  The food, however, is what stands out the most, and its location (Woodland and 2nd) is a convenient take-out spot for East Nashvillians who commute across the Cumberland.

They offer what every other boring Thai restaurant in Nashville offers:  the pick-your-curry-pick-your-meat dish.  However, there’s much more to the menu–all of which is prepared with a high degree of precision and meticulousness.  (Every dish even comes with a fancy garnish.)

They have a variety of Asian beers, including my favorite SE Asian beer, Tiger.  Our table first ordered the chicken satay, and we could taste the curry and coconut milk marinade.  Then we had a salad with cross-hatched calamari mixed with red and green onion, shreds of pickled purple cabbage and carrot, chopped cilantro, lime juice, and chili-ed, sweetened fish sauce.  Quite good. We also ordered two portions of the ban khuan, which is made much like a crepe, but with rice flour, and then rolled.  This restaurant’s version has ground chicken, black mushrooms, and scallions.  But the rolls were too mealy and dry.

For the main course, we ordered green curry with pork and the lard nar.  But the winner was the whole tilapia, flash fried and then steamed with ginger and served in a rich sauce that included pickled limes.  (Warning: whole fish = the presence of bones.) The fish was $12.99/lb (ours came out to be $14).  Our entire meal, including two rounds of beer, cost $80.  We ordered for three people, but this was too much food, as one of us had to go out to the car and rest, horizontally.

We’re excited to return and try some other dishes like the “smiling duck” and “smiling Tennessee.”

Their website is http://www.thaiphookettn.com, but it isn’t working. 615-248-7933.

Second visit:

We had a friend in town, and figured we’d have an easy, delicious meal at Thai Phooket, which we were more than enthusiastic about our first time there. Our second visit, however, was quite disappointing.  Right when we sat down, the out-of-place roadhouse felt too cold. The whole place was a walk-in cooler, even when the waiter brought out a heater for our table.  He recommended some apps, and the only interesting one was a shrimp on a stick, wrapped with egg noodles–fried to a crisp.  The sweet-chili sauce, though, tasted generic.

For entrees, we let the waiter recommend some dishes.  Again, we had the whole tilapia, flash fried and then steamed with ginger and served in a rich sauce .  This time, however, the tilapia was not fresh.  We also had a duck dish that was supposed to be steamed–as described on the menu and reaffirmed by the waiter.  But when it came it, the duck had been chopped and fried.  Not what we expected, and fried to the point of diminishing any quality of the duck.  We also had skewered breasts, which were grilled and topped with a sauce.  The dish was fine.  But none of the dishes stood on their own.  They seemed like redundant meat dishes with slightly different types of sauce and the same garnishes.

Thai Phooket on Urbanspoon

New Mexican Restaurants

December 10, 2009

Drove by Edgehill Village (intersection of Edgehill and Villa) yesterday, and saw that Nashville’s latest Mexican chain restaurant is opening today.  [Update note:  it actually opened on December 11th, not the 10th.]  Taco Mamacita hails from Chattanooga and is a “young” franchise.  It’ll replace independent Rosario’s, which never really got off the ground.  It’s as if restaurateurs have realized Nashville’s lack of good Mexican food.  There’s also the new-ish Cantina Laredo in the Gulch:  a good concept, but too much like J. Alexander’s gone Tex Mex and the prices are a bit steep.  La Paz, a 30-year-old chain, has moved into the old Ombi location.  (Isn’t la Fiesta Azteca already right next door?)

Mexican food is tricky like hamburgers and cocktails:  everyone knows the ingredients, the how-to, but it takes a certain touch to get it just right. Have you ever had a martini in France or a burger in Hanoi? Well, the same goes for Mexican and tex-mex  in Nashville–with few exceptions.   Lopez Taqueria and Mariscos on Nolensville is our favorite.  (Just south of the zoo, but north of Harding.)  A gas station outfitted into a restaurant, with a constant buzz around the clock.  They offer everything from sopas to ceviche, but try the grilled/smoked chicken al carbon–best tasting, best chicken deal in town–and the tacos al pastor.  Lopez does not have a liquor license and so no cerveza.  3901 Nolensville Road.  (615) 833-6434.